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Making Lives Better

Summit Assistance Dogs

November 2005 Barker



Rick Morelan works at Microsoft. He doesn’t own a dog. Yet every Saturday, he drives 150 miles round trip to Anacortes to help train service dogs at Summit Assistance Dogs. Sometimes he walks the dogs in the community. Other times, he helps socialize the puppies. How much does he get for his efforts? Nothing. He is a volunteer.

Summit Assistance Dogs currently trains dogs for people with mobility and hearing disabilities, and therapy dogs for medically fragile children or for use in schools or other institutions where a dog can provide therapeutic intervention.

Summit dogs are obtained from its own breeding program, other breeders, and from people needing to re-home a pet. They also obtain many dogs from shelters and breed rescue groups, thereby giving these deserving animals a "new leash on life". Prospective candidates undergo extensive evaluation before being accepted into the program to ensure that only healthy dogs with suitable temperaments are placed. Although Summit will use suitable dogs of various breeds, the most commonly used are Labrador and Golden retrievers and crosses between the two breeds.

Service Dogs Service dogs provide assistance to people with mobility disabilities by performing such tasks as retrieving items, turning on/ off lights, opening doors, pulling wheelchairs, etc. Dogs may be custom trained to meet a variety of specific needs.

Hearing Dogs

Hearing dogs provide assistance to people with hearing disabilities by alerting to sounds such as doorbells, phones, alarms, etc. Dogs are trained to lead their partners to the source of the sound and can be custom trained to meet specific needs.

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs provide social interaction and therapeutic intervention in conjunction with a healthcare professional or caregiver to assist people with any number of disabilities. They are frequently used in institutional settings such as schools, hospitals or by social workers/ psychologists to aid in counseling. Therapy dogs may also be placed with young medically-fragile children who are not mature enough to fully manage a service dog.

Special Education

Summit also enriches the lives of at-risk youth by involving them, through special educational programs, in the training of our dogs. Dogs attend a local middle school where students take an active part in teaching both basic and advanced skills. This innovative program teaches students many life skills, while engaging them in valuable community service.

To learn more about Summit Assistance Dogs or to donate to this cause, go to www.summitdogs.org or call (360) 293-5609.


Chris Blanchard of Seattle, Washington, graduated in November 2004 with Bennet, a Golden Retriever service dog. Chris works at Chihuly Glass, Inc. in Seattle and Ben accompanies him to work each day. Chris uses a wheelchair and Ben helps him retrieve items, turn on and off lights, open and close doors, and other numerous tasks. Breeder: Keith & Lola Ingersoll of Angel Eyes Kennel, Honedale, Idaho. Puppy Raiser: Debbie Craig, Bellingham, Washington

Jenna Clark of Bainbridge Island, Washington, graduated in November 2004 with Crystal, a Golden Retriever service dog. Jenna uses a wheelchair and is co-teacher for disability awareness at the local elementary schools. Crystal accompanies Jenna on her “rounds,” helping to educate the children. She also helps Jenna with various tasks such as picking up dropped items and getting the phone in case of emergency. Breeder: Dr. Peter Brown, Sedro Woolley, Washington. Puppy Raiser: Christy Durham, Sedro Woolley, Washington.

Story courtesy of Summit Assistance Dogs, www.summit.org

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